About six weeks ago we learned that American airlines had cut back on their special meals. Three of the meal choices – asian vegetarian, hindu, and muslim – are actually the same thing, diabetic meals now get chicken instead of beef, and five of their special meals now “receive standardized and frozen pre-prepared” entrees with a “one year frozen shelf life.” Yum!
In general I’m not a fan of American’s recent food efforts under the mantra of ‘simplicity’. However up until now pre-ordering special meals has been surprisingly good.
Muslim meal in domestic first class
Zoës Kitchen charcuterie plate in domestic first class
When I shared that American was reducing the variety of their special meals and freezing them up to a year, I was told that other airlines do it too. Jeff Bezos famously says, though, that the biggest mistake companies make is paying attention to their competitors instead of their customers.
But if one year shelf life is supposed to be the cutoff, how come reader @sjaytx was served a vegetarian meal made in February 2018?
The passenger shares that he’s an American AAdvantage Executive Platinum who was flying coach, in extra legroom Main Cabin Extra seats along with his family, Dallas Fort-Worth to London Heathrow on June 1.
He’s a vegetarian and will “sometimes order the special meal” even when he knows that the flight’s menu will have a vegetarian choice, since he doesn’t like American’s pasta. Vegan red curry vegetables, he thought, sounded pretty good when the package was presented to him. But then he noticed the manufacture date, 16 months ago. He wound up being given the pasta instead.
I was shocked so waited until regular service and asked the flight attendant. She went and brought another attendant to understand/figure out. I explained my concern that the meal was manufactured in Feb 2018 and this is June 2019.The second attendant took the meal from me and came back. The next part is hilarious. She told me that the date is NOT the expiration date of the meal. I didn’t know how to respond to that. They were nice enough to offer me the regular pasta which I ended up eating.
While he thinks it’s “idiotic” that flight attendants served him the meal with the packaging and date still on it, he is “thankful they did it” so that he didn’t eat it, concerned that it might not have been kept at a constant and correct temperature for the full 16 months since it was prepared.
I reached out to American Airlines a week ago for comment on serving 16 month old meals to customers, and while they promised to get back to me they still haven’t done so. [Update: I spoke with American who tells me that the meal served was within industry norm, but they’re working with catering vendors to provide meals that were made within 40-60 days.]
Nigella Lawson says not to freeze curries more than three months. Since it seems confrontational to be asking flight attendants to bring me the packaging to see when American’s meals were made I think I’ll just stop eating inflight. Would you eat 16 month old American Airlines meals?